Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/More, Henry (1614-1687)

MORE, HENRY (1614–1687), theologian, born at Grantham in 1614, was son of 'Alexander More, esq., a gentleman of fair estate and fortune.' Both his parents were strong Calvinists, and from his childhood he took a deep interest in questions of theology, but could never accept the Calvinistic system. He appears to have been committed by his father to the care of his uncle, who threatened to flog him 'for his immature forwardness in philosophising concerning the mysteries of necessity and free- will.' At fourteen he was sent to 'Eton School … for the perfecting of the Greek and Latin tongue.' He made great progress in his studies, and in 1631 was admitted at Christ's College, Cambridge, about the time when John Milton was leaving it. In 1635 he graduated B.A., and for three or four years was still unsettled in regard to religion. But in 1639 he proceeded M.A., and was elected fellow of his college; and about the same time he received holy orders. Thenceforth he lived almost entirely within the walls of Christ's College, except when he went to stay with his 'heroine pupil ' (as his biographer terms her), Anne, viscountess Conway [[[q. v.]]], at her country seat of Ragley in Warwickshire, where his great pleasure was to wander among the woods and glades. He won a high reputation both for saintliness and for intellectual power; but he refused all preferment, successively declining the mastership of his college (1654), the deanery of Christ Church, Oxford, the provostship of Trinity College, Dublin, with the deanery of St. Patrick's, and two bishoprics. Intensely loyal to the king, both during the civil wars and after the Restoration, he was once persuaded to make a journey to Whitehall to kiss his majesty's hands; but when he heard by the way that this would be the prelude to a bishopric he at once turned back. In 1676 he was persuaded by the lord chancellor, the Earl of Nottingham, to accept a prebend at Gloucester, but he resigned it immediately in favour of his friend Dr. Fowler, afterwards bishop of the diocese. He declined advancement simply 'from a pure love of contemplation and solitude, and because he thought he could do the church of God greater service in a private than in a public station.' He had many pupils at Christ's; he loved music, and used to play on the theorbo; he enjoyed a game at bowls, and still more a conversation with intimate friends, who listened to him as to an oracle; and he was so kind to the poor that it is said 'his very chamber-door was a hospital for the needy.' He shrank from bitter theological and political disputes; but he had the courage of his opinions, which were very definite. He made no secret of his attachment to the church of England at a time when it was dangerous to avow such sentiments; and he did not hesitate to use the church liturgy both in public and private when it was a crime to do so.

On 1 Sept. 1687 he died at Cambridge, and was buried in the chapel of his college. His life was published in 1710 by the Rev. R. Ward, rector of Ingoldsby, a living which was in More's gift; but he has himself given us a far more vivid and interesting picture of himself in the 'Praefatio generalissima' to the 1679 edition of his 'Opera Omnia.' An engraving of More by Faithorne is prefixed to his 'Opera Theologica,' 1675, and another by Loggan to his 'Works,' 1679 (Bromley).

More belonged to that little band of Christian Platonists which was formed at Cambridge in the middle of the seventeenth century, and the distinctive traits of their school of thought are perhaps best brought out in his writings. The 'occult science,' of which such men as Van Helmont and Greatrakes were in More's time the apostles, had a singular fascination for him; but he was saved from its extravagances by the firmly implanted conviction which tinges all his life and all his writings that holiness was the way to knowledge, 'being well advised,' he says, 'both by the dictates of my own conscience and the clear information of those holy oracles which we all deservedly reverence, that God reserves his choicest secrets for the purest minds.' He was a voluminous writer. Like many others he began as a poet and ended as a prose writer. His first work, published in 1642, but written two years earlier, was entitled 'Psychozoia Platonica: or, a Platonicall Song of the Soul, consisting of foure severall Poems.' This was followed in 1647 by his full collection of 'Philosophicall Poems,' which includes 'The Song of the Soul,' much enlarged, and is dedicated 'to his dear father.' A second edition was published in the same year, and it was included by Dr. A. B. Grosart in his Chertsey Worthies Library (1878).

His prose works are:

  1. 'Observations upon Anthroposophia Theogmagica and Anima Magica Abscondita by Alazonomastix Philalethes,' 1650; in answer to Thomas Vaughan (brother of the poet), who replied in 'The Man-mouse taken in a Trape.'
  2. 'The Second Lash of Alazonomastix,' a rejoinder to Vaughan, 1651.
  3. 'An Antidote against Atheism, or an Appeal to the Naturall Faculties of the Minde of Man, whether there be not a God,' 1653: 2nd edit. 'corrected and enlarged: With an Appendix thereunto annexed,' 1655.
  4. 'Conjectura Cabbalistica … or a Conjectural Essay of Interpreting the Minde of Moses, according to a Threefold Cabbala: viz. Literal, Philosophical, Mystical, or Divinely Moral,' 1653; dedicated to his brother Platonist, Dr. Cudworth.
  5. 'Enthusiasmus Triumphatus, or a Discourse of the Nature, Causes, Kinds, and Cure of Enthusiasme; written by Philo-philus Parrasiastes, and prefixed to Alazonomastix his Observations and Reply,' &c., 1656.
  6. 'The Immortality of the Soul, so farre forth as it is demonstrable from the Knowledge of Nature and the Light of Reason,' 1659; dedicated to Viscount Conway, the husband of his heroine pupil.'
  7. 'An Explanation of the Grand Mystery of Godliness; or a True and Faithful Representation of the Everlasting Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,' 1660.
  8. 'A Modest Enquiry into the Mystery of Iniquity,' and an 'Apologie,' &c., 1664.
  9. 'Enchiridion Ethicum, praecipua Moralis Philosophise Rudimenta complectens, illustrata ut plurimum Veterum Monumentis, et ad Probitatem Vitae perpetuo accommodate,' 1667, 1668, 1669, 1695, 1696, and 1711.
  10. 'Divine Dialogues, containing sundry Disquisitions and Instructions concerning the Attributes of God and His Providence in the World,' 1668, More's best-known work. The most authentic edition appeared in 1713.
  11. 'An Exposition of the Seven Epistles to the Seven Churches; Together with a Brief Discourse of Idolatry, with application to the Church of Rome.' The title of the latter in the volume itself is 'An Antidote against Idolatry,' and it elicited from More in reply to attacks 'A brief Reply to a late Answer to Dr. Henry More his antidote against Idolatry,' 1672, and 'An Appendix to the late Antidote against Idolatry,' 1673.
  12. 'Enchiridion Metaphysicum: sive, de rebus incorporeis succincta et luculenta dissertati; pars prima,' 1671, an attack on the Cartesian philosophy, which he had in earlier life admired.
  13. 'Remarks upon two late ingenious Discourses [by Sir Matthew Hale, q. v.]; the one, an Essay, touching the Gravitation and non-Gravitation of Fluid Bodies; the other, touching the Torricellian Experiment, so far forth as they may concern any passages in his "Enchiridion Metaphysicum," 1676.
  14. 'Apocalypsis Apocalypseos; or the Revelation of St. John the Divine unveiled: an exposition from chapter to chapter and from verse to verse of the whole Book of the Apocalypse,' 1680.
  15. 'A Plain and continued Exposition of the several Prophecies or Divine Visions of the Prophet Daniel, which have or may concern the People of God, whether Jew or Christian,' &c., 1681.
  16. 'A Brief Discourse of the Real Presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist; wherein the Witty Artifices of the Bishop of Meaux [Bossuet] and of Monsieur Maimbourg are obviated, whereby they would draw in the Protestants to imbrace the doctrine of Transubstantiation,' 1681.

More is also believed to have written 'Philosophiae Teutonicae Censura,' 1670, a criticism of the theosophy of Jacob Boehme; and to have edited Joseph Glanvill's 'Saducismus Triumphatus,' 1681. He certainly contributed largely to the volume, and also wrote many of the annotations to the same writer's 'Lux Orientalis,' 1682. More thoroughly sympathised with Glanvill in his intense belief in witchcraft and apparitions. Several letters from More to Dr. Worthington are printed in Dr. Worthington's 'Diary,' and some 'Letters Philosophical and Moral' between John Norris and Henry More are added to Norris's 'Theory and Regulation of Love,' 1688. 'A Collection of several Philosophical Writings of Dr. Henry More' includes his 'Antidote against Atheism,' with the Appendix, 'Enthusiasmus Triumphatus,' 'Letters to Des Cartes,' &c., 'Immortality of the Soul,' and 'Conjectura Cabbalistica.' A fourth edition, 'corrected and much enlarged,' was put forth in 1712, and was 'enriched with all the Scholia or Notes that he added afterwards in his Latin edition of these works.'

Between 1672 and 1675 More was principally engaged in translating his English works into Latin. In 1675 appeared 'Henrici Mori Cantabrigiensis Opera Theologica, Anglice quidem primitius scripta, mine vero per autorem Latine reddita. Hisce novus praefixus est De Synchronismis Apocalypticis Tractatulus.' This was followed in 1679 by a larger work in 2 vols., 'Henrici Mori Cantabrigiensis Opera Omnia, tum quae Latinè tum quae Anglicè scripta sunt; nunc vero Latinitate donata instigatu et impensis generosissimi juvenis Johannis Cockshutt nobilis Angli.' Mr. Cockshutt of the Inner Temple had left a legacy of 300 l. to More to have three of his principal pieces translated into Latin, but More complied with the terms of the legacy by translating into Latin many more of his English works. In 1692 were published 'Discourses on Several Texts of Scripture. By the late Pious and Learned Henry More, D.D.,' with a preface signed 'John Worthington;' and in 1694 'Letters on Several Subjects,' published by the Rev. E. Elys. Abridgments of and extracts from the works of More were numerous; and in 1708 a volume was published, especially for the use of 'all such Reverend clergymen as shall be fix'd in the places where charitable libraries are erected,' entitled 'The Theological Works of the most Pious and Learned Henry More.' The work is in English, but 'according to the author's Improvements in his Latin edition.'

More's biographer tells us that 'though he [More] had not wanted particular and extraordinary respects from many persons, yet the world in general had either been in part averse to his writings, or not known well what to make of some things in them;' and again:' 'Tis very certain that his writings are not generally (I will not say, read, but) so much as known; and many scholars themselves are in a great measure strangers to them' (Ward, p. 72). On the other hand we are told that 'his writings were so much in vogue, that Mr. Chishull, an eminent bookseller, declared that for twenty years together, after the return of King Charles the Second, the '"Mystery of Godliness" and Dr. More's other Works ruled all the Booksellers in London' (Biog. Brit.); while the editor of the 1743 edition of the 'Divine Dialogues' asserts that 'his works continued in high reputation long after his decease.' The mere fact of the continued reproduction, in whole or in part, of More's works is a proof that they were not neglected; and, considering how utterly the refined, dreamy, and poetical spirit of More was out of sympathy with the practical and prosaic mind of the eighteenth century, it is wonderful that his fame should have been so great as it was during that period. John Wesley, for instance, a man of an entirely different type of mind, strongly recommended More's writings to his brother-clergy. William Law, though he called More 'a Babylonish philosopher,' and is particularly severe upon the 'Divine Dialogues,' was deeply impressed with the piety and general interest of his character; and the edition of 1708 was issued through the exertions, and partly at the expense, of a gentleman the description of whom points very distinctly to Dr. Bray, who, except in the matters of piety and goodness, seems to have had little in common with More. S. T. Coleridge, as might be expected, had a high opinion of More's theological writings, declaring that they 'contained more original, enlarged, and elevating views of the Christian dispensation than he had met with in any other single volume' (Lit. Revs.) Principal Tulloch, in his valuable sketch of the Cambridge Platonists, treats More as at once the most interesting and the most unreadable of the whole band.

[Henry More's Works, passim, especially the Praefatio Generalissima to his Opera Omnia, 1679; Ward's Life of Henry More; Tulloch's Rational Theology, ii. 303-409; and valuable private information, especially about the bibliography, from Rev. J. Ingle Dredge.]

J. H. O.